Today the technological phenomenon known as the ‘internet of things’ facilitated a massive cyber attack that crashed major websites in North America and throughout the world.
Every day is more and more like science fiction.
So what is the internet of things exactly? Put simply, the IOT is when our everyday devices and objects have network connectivity and are able to send and receive data. It’s a world where our coffee maker speaks to our car, which then speaks to our email system at work. It’s a world where potentially everything has an IP address. Experts predict that globally there will be somewhere in the range of 100 Billion connected devices by 2020. You might have 3 or 4 connected devices now but imagine having 50 and you are closer to the new reality. The utopian version of this is an incredibly powerful communication network that makes our everyday lives immeasurably easier. Today, however, we saw the downside.
This morning major DDoS attacks powered by botnets made of Internet of Things devices targeted Dyn, a major internet infrastructure provider in the eastern United States. The attack caused major issues for many popular websites including Twitter, Reddit, Github, and Spotify.
So what are ‘botnets’ and DDoS attacks?
Think of a malicious ‘botnet’ like a massive zombie army of computers that unwillingly and simultaneously send transmissions to computers for the purpose of harm. A DDoS (or Distributed Denial of Service) attack is when a flood of traffic is sent to a web server intentionally to slow it down therefore making it inaccessible to visitors and back-end administrators.
As recent as last week the US Computer Emergency Readiness Team (CERT) warned of the dangers of attacks powered by botnets made of Internet of Things devices.
The science fiction parallels here are almost laughable (after the crying tapers off). We have a situation where we are creating billions and trillions of connected devices that can be co-opted by hacker groups to work together to create far more powerful decentralized cyber attacks.